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Published February 09 2012

Same-sex Fargo couple denied marriage license, but hope others are spurred to action

FARGO – “Guess why we’re here?” Lenny Tweeden wryly asked Cass County Treasurer Charlotte Sandvik as he stepped up to the courthouse counter on Thursday afternoon.

Surrounded by media, Tweeden and his partner Wayne Rosell, who have been together for 25 years, were at the courthouse to officially apply for a marriage license.

The end result was not in doubt: North Dakota law does not permit Sandvik or her staff to even provide a marriage application to same-sex couples such as Tweeden and Rosell.

“I hope you understand,” Sandvik told them.

After she turned them down, Sandvik told Tweeden she had received a call from someone in Grand Forks who wanted to express their support for the couple.

“I wanted to pass that on to them,” Sandvik said after rejecting Tweeden and Rosell’s request.

Outside the courthouse, a handful of people made signs in support of the couple, while nobody showed up in opposition to gay marriage.

Inside, former Fargo Mayor Jon Lindgren, a friend of Tweeden and Rosell, was waiting with bouquets of flowers for the pair before they arrived.

“I think it’s important that someone stepped forward,” Lindgren said. “I’m proud of both of them.”

Tweeden said he doesn’t know what will come next, but hopes others in the state are spurred to action by his example.

“This could be the start of something,” he said. “This is just getting the ball rolling.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535